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Tony Grist

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Fandom [Aug. 4th, 2007|12:12 pm]
Tony Grist
Fandom- I don't get it.

Why would you want to mess with someone else's characters when you can create your own?

Does J.K. Rowling take pleasure in badly written stories about her characters having sex?  I doubt it.  Why- If you admire and enjoy her work - would you want to disrespect her so? 

Isn't "fan" a bit of a misnomer?

But lets move from the general to the specific. An artist just got banned by LJ because of an image she posted of Harry and Snape.

Only the banning seems ineffective because she's bounced back and the image is viewable. (I'm not giving links. I don't want to give her any more publicity than she's getting already).

I clicked. I was expecting an image of them kissing. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

The characters were clearly modelled on Daniel Radcliffe and Alan Rickman. Isn't this defamation of character or libel of something?

Even more to the point:  British comedian Chris Langham is about to go to prison for downloading images which (I assume ) are comparable to this. 

So- forget morality- LJ needs to guard itself against prosecution.

But I don't want to forget morality. You take characters from a beloved children's book and you produce an image of them that any paedophile would be proud to own (you can quibble over whether Harry looks underage or not if you want to be legalistic and miss the point) and  I can't think of any grounds on which I'd be prepared  to defend you.

A lot of fans are up in arms and banging on about censorship.  I just watched a video of a girl give a little self-righteous speech then attempt to burn her LJ shirt with a blow torch .  Fine. Off you trot to some less scrupulous site and good luck to you!  As it happens, I'm perfectly happy to see you go.

[User Picture]From: imadra_blue
2007-08-05 11:24 am (UTC)
I came here from a link in some comments to a fannish community. I found it interesting to read your perspective, especially since you're looking from the outside. Your reaction is understandable, but I'd like to cross the bridge, if I may.

Now, I am in fandom. And I've been fannish all my life, as in I've been a huge fan of Star Wars since I was a small child and kept asking my mother to put it on for me. XD But all this censorship and free speech nonsense from other fans is driving me nuts, especially since LJ is a private site and can do as they please with their rules. My main problem is that LJ won't take a stand and just say, unequivocally, what is and what is not allowed. That, and the staff are amazingly unprofessional.

However, fandom is not about porn. The sexually explicit material is part of it, yes, but hardly a large portion. I think this is another problem I'm developing over this situation. Suddenly, everyone thinks that everyone in fandom is there for the porn. I don't even read the stuff, most times (unless an author I favor writes it). I usually read gen, which typically is story, plot, and/or character-focused. So, I know it's hard for you see that in the news post, but I swear not all of fandom is obsessed with porn, and furthermore, even a larger part is not into fanfiction/fanart. Fandom, technically, includes all fans.

Fandom is about keeping things alive. It allows you to explore what the creators didn't explore, and usually couldn't explore if they were bound by a plot. It's a way to find more of what you love. Now, I do tend to actually write fanfiction for sources I find flawed. I still love them, but that doesn't mean I pretend they're perfect. Either I think they don't tell me the whole story, or I like parts of the story and want to explore more of those parts. If a story is flawless or close to flawless, I am simply content with the source. And fandom is also about community. What's better than getting together with fellow fans to discuss something you like?

As for original characters, I consider fanfiction a sort of testing ground. I've learned a lot of wonderful advice about writing from fellow fans, readers, and even the occasional troll. And the more you write, the better you get at it. So, for me at least, it's like practice. Besides, I'm a college student, and I want to hone my craft a bit before I have to stand before a panel of critics to defend my thesis. XD

I can see how you might find it disrespectful for fanworks to be created, but fandom isn't about the creator. They care about the story. Furthermore, most creators are ambivalent towards fanfiction. They recognize that fandom generates excitement, new fans, more revenue, etc., and so long as it keeps out of sight and mind (to them) and doesn't make a profit, most creators/companies turn a blind eye. Well, most of the time. Yet, they never successfully have squashed fandom, and I doubt they ever will. It's silly to alienate your fanbase.

And while I understand your "moral" point (though I don't really agree that it is a moral point), there are adult fans of children's books and movies, and sometimes they want to explore the more "adult" side (not saying necessarily porn, but also more nuanced emotions and aspects of the stories and characters). I am not defending the piece of art in question, nor am I condemning it. I'm simply trying to explain the mentality behind it.

Also, I fail to see how depicting a character that you play in a movie is defamation of character or libel. The actors lend their appearances to the characters, but do not become the characters. Harry Potter and whatnot don't really exist, so how can you defame their character? XD It is, probably, a copyright issue, and in some cases, an "obscenity" issue.

Mostly, I'm just sad that other fans are overreacting so badly that they're embarrassing the rest of us, and giving outsiders such an awful impression of the entire group.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-05 12:21 pm (UTC)
I think there's a difference between Harry Potter- with it's single creator- and franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars and Dr Who which have multiple creators and a ceaseless flow of product. Is an officially sanctioned Star Wars novel so very different from a piece of fanfic? Maybe, but not by many degrees.

I've never had a problem with Trekkers or Star Wars fans. I'm not attracted by the world of fandom but I can see how it might be fun to go to conventions and learn to speak Klingon and all that kind of thing. Fanfic in these fandoms is legitimised by the encouragment and indulgence of the franchise holders.

Rowling, however, is closely identified with her creation and has kept fairly tight control of its development; she has even- as few writers do- supervised the making of the films. I think her ownership of the work- her artistic integrity- should be respected. If I were her I'd be annoyed and upset by fanfic that plays fast and loose with the characters.

I don't believe in censorship. If I'd run into the disputed image by chance I wouldn't have gone running to the cops. By the time I arrived on the scene it was already controversial. There are times to take a stand and there are times to bow out gracefully and I think- as I believe you do- that this particular image wasn't worth getting into a fight about- and that those who are getting all huffy with LJ about it aren't doing themselves any good.

Maybe the image isn't illegal under US law (though i think it would be in the UK) but I reckon LJ was wise to take it down before the question was submitted to the courts

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[User Picture]From: imadra_blue
2007-08-05 12:46 pm (UTC)
I feel as if the Expanded Universe works present in Star Wars are merely fanfiction that you pay for (and are of the same dubious quality), so I agree with you there! And I totally see your point about works that are tightly controlled by their creator, such as JKR's work, though I do recall her saying she was fine with fanfic that wasn't porn. She personally stated she found it flattering, so with JKR, there's an exception. I know plenty of writers who have problems with fanfiction, and unsurprisingly, these fandoms are small to nonexistent. If an author expresses displeasure with fanfiction, then I absolutely respect that. But there are some that encourage it--Joss Whedon, for example (though he may fall under that franchise umbrella you described).

I absolutely don't believe in censorship myself. I'm not bothered or offended by the art; I'm simply not interested in it. (But then, my interest in Harry Potter is very limited.) I don't particularly like LJ's new, more restrictive rules, but there's nothing I can do about that, and they're hardly anything surprising or anything that would really hamper my fun. I agree that defending the art beyond mentioning that the underage qualities are debatable and asking how they determined it was underage on their own with no input from the artist is rather pointless. They can and will ToS whoever and whatever they want. And I can totally understand their wishes to avoid legal liability and simply delete. I'm not sure why they couldn't simply request the artist to remove it and give her a warning before banning her permanently, but I do understand the impulse. (And there was actually another Harry Potter fanartist who was banned, too, for the same reason.)

The biggest problem is the slippery slope. How long before they decide all explicit material is not allowed? Or that homosexuality is not allowed? Or fanfiction at all? If they attack one kink, how long before they attack them all. If those are there rules, fine. I'd hate them, and undoubtedly leave (as would most of fandom), but it is their site. They just need to stop being ambiguous. It wasn't so long ago that they assuring fandom that they had made a mistake, and now people are being ToS'd off. The problem is not a legal one or about censorship at all (since censorship only applies to the government). The problem is that LJ has very bad customer service and their policies are vague and distateful to some.

I sympathize with fandom's angry reaction, but it is misplaced, and they're focusing on the wrong issue. They need to fight the restrictive legislature being passed in the US if they want to fight censorship. Otherwise, we're all just complaining about LJ treating a respectable chunk of its paying customers very badly.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-05 02:08 pm (UTC)
Am I personally offended by that particular picture? Good question. I find it tacky and exploitative and insensitive and annoying- so, yes, I suppose I am.

I agree that LJ has handled this badly. Asking the artist to take the picture down would have been the right thing to do. Banning her was overkill.

I hope they are learning from these run-ins with their customers.

I'm worried about the slippery slope. I suppose we all have our sticking point. If they banned homosexual content (very unlikely) I'd be off like a shot.
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From: aidnos
2007-08-05 05:53 pm (UTC)
If they banned homosexual content (very unlikely) I'd be off like a shot.

One concern of mine is that it seems to be slash in particular that's being targeted. Both the artists were slash artists. In the previous Strikethrough, the community devoted to slash erotica was suspended but the sister community devoted to heterosexual erotica was untouched. The slash comm was no more prone to explicit, under 18 fic than the heterosexual community.

So beyond my general gripe about the vagueness of their policies, I'm concerned about what appears to be a thread of homophobia running through their decisions. The choices they've made for journal deletions are implying (at least to me) that they find slash to be more immoral than het--simply because of the homosexual content.

I'm not in fandom for the porn, and never have been. But I am in fandom for the slash. I'm in fandom because mainsteam literature is seriously lacking when it comes to light, genre reading that happens to feature homosexual characters. (I wouldn't want to guess at the percentage of genre fiction that includes homosexual protagonists versus those with heterosexual protagonists, but observation suggests that the percentage would be ridiculously small.)

And that's a large part of what fandom is about. It's about doing what mainstream media won't or can't or just doesn't want to. Whether that's including more romance for those romantically inclined (witness the huge outpouring of Dr. Who romantic fic) or more queerness for those us who are, in one way or another, a bit queer (witness slash), or more sex for those who are frustrated by the "Oo, mustn't show them doing something *naughty*" mentality, or those who just love the world and the characters and want to stay and explore a bit more--it's all part of the same desire for more than mainstream will give. And since the mainstream won't give it, fans make it themselves. Fans are drawn to works that they like, but in which they feel that there's something lacking.

As for those who dabble in underage fanwork...maybe those people *want* to explore the implications of an uneven power dynamic. Maybe they want to make people uncomfortable. Maybe they're just tapping into a general (and mainstream) cultural view that does indeed sexualize adolescents and young adults (and where's the line between these two really? 16? 18? 20? I know the laws of a couple different counties, but I sure as hell don't know the moral truth of the matter. I *do* know that even mainstream American culture contains a lot of sexualized, under 18 pop stars, actors, etc.)

I don't know and I don't care what makes any given fan decide to create a piece of work that includes an underage character in a sexual position. I *do* know that these people are not paedophiles. As far as I'm concerned, they can creat fanworks if they like and they can share it with others if they like. And when they ask LJ if they are allowed to share it *here*, as paying customers, they deserve to get a real answer.

For the most part, these people aren't *trying* to flout the ToS, they're trying to figure out what the ToS *are* and getting pissy when LJ deletes journals without giving people an opportunity to take down work that crosses the line...especially when no one's quite sure where the line *is*.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-05 06:45 pm (UTC)
I suspect LJ has been caught on the hop and is making up the rules as it goes along. But it's not my place to defend them.

I suspect the rules are proving hard to frame. As I said elsewhere in this thread, the British theatrical censor used to have a book listing all the words that couldn't be said on stage and all the actions that couldn't be shown. In the end he got laughed out of court.

So much depends in art on intangibles- artistic merit, context, intention etc. I happen to find this particular image sleazy and unpleasant, but that doesn't mean I'm going to have the same reaction to all similar images.
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